Move over Google, Facebook will win the Internet


Mount Google

The Internet Mountain

Having worked in the online marketing industry for over 10 years, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go.  I’ve also seen companies ascend the mighty internet mountain, only to pass out from the lack of oxygen and come tumbling back down.

Currently, there’s little doubt that Google stands atop that internet mountain.  They’re the biggest, the baddest, and the most influential company on the internet, in my humble opinion.

If you want to find something on the internet, you most likely resort to using Google to find that something you’re looking for.  This is especially true with finding businesses.  However, I believe that the war for internet supremacy, while currently dominated by Google, will not ultimately be won by that behemoth.

Who do I believe will be the victor when the dust settles?  Currently, I believe that company to be Facebook.  Now, this could change.  A newcomer could come on the scene and dethrone Facebook.  My real point is; the internet won’t be won by a search company but rather a social media company.  Here is the reason why.

 

Organic Search Bomb

Any business owner that relies on organic internet traffic has probably had the following experience.

One day, a business owner wakes up and sales aren’t coming in as regularly or perhaps the phone isn’t ringing as often as it usually does.  Flummoxed, the business owner does a quick analysis of his company’s online marketing channels and finds nothing out of sorts.  Then, he goes to Google and types in a familiar keyword that brings up his company’s website in the #1 spot.

To his amazement, his website isn’t in the top spot anymore.  In fact, it’s all the way down at number 6!

He quickly calls his webmaster and asks all the usual questions.  Did something happen? Did we do anything? Is something broken?

More and more I’m seeing this happen with my clients.  And the funny thing is, it has nothing to do with what they’ve done, but rather, how they’re now being viewed.  And the one doing the viewing is Google.

Maybe it was a Panda crawl, maybe it was Penguin or maybe it was some other covert aspect of Google’s algorithm that no longer likes the company’s website.  The point is; they’ve taken a hit.  They’re revenues have taken a hit.  And this drop in rankings has caused serious damage to the company.

I’ve seen entire companies fold because of organic search problems.  I’ve seen layoffs and downsizing due to this as well.

 

Social Media: Steady as She Goes

Now, let’s examine how this scenario would play out if the company we’re discussing drew most of their customers in through Facebook.

The business owner wakes up one morning.  His sales are steady, his calls are coming in as expected, and his company is humming along.  He logs into the admin side of Facebook and notices that his “likes” have jumped from 62,125 to over 63,000.  Great news!

He gets his marketing department to develop an online promotion and posts it on the Facebook page.  At which point, a good number of his followers share it, like it, and redeem the offer.

And this brings me to the point of this article.  A company’s followers on Facebook won’t fluctuate due to an algorithmic change on Facebook’s part.  The number won’t shoot down due to something completely out of the company’s control.

Yes, the company’s follower number can take a hit with bad press or a mistake on the company’s part.  But, those actions are not nebulous and they’re usually easy to identify and find a solution.  Unfortunately, the Google algorithm isn’t as easy to decipher.

 

Google’s Ultimate Downfall

As an SEO (search engine optimization) consultant, I read hundreds of blogs from industry insiders and Google employees.  And I’m shocked at the lack of consensus on what actually affects Google rankings.  You could take two “experts” in the SEO field and ask them what are the top 10 ranking factors and you’ll get two very different lists.

This also brings up the point of Google’s willingness to change the rules of the search engine game.  They will make broad changes to their algorithm that affect thousands if not hundreds of thousands of companies and give little or no notice of the change.  (Exact match domains, anyone?)

Whereas, Facebook actually seems to want to help companies increase their reach and exposure. (Graph Search, news feed optimization, etc.)

All of this doesn’t even take into account the fact that people trust a friend’s referral over an organic search result, but that’s an argument for another time.

The bottom line is this.  Companies are built on the idea that they can make projections on revenues.  A big part of those projections is their marketing.  More and more, companies will find that social media offers a steadier, more efficient, and more reliable medium for marketing over organic search rankings.  As this shift continues to take place, you’ll see more companies divert their marketing dollars towards Facebook.

There are already signs of Google losing marketing dollars to Facebook.  And the pace of that loss is accelerating.

I don’t know when Google will get light-headed from lack of oxygen, atop the internet mountain, and come tumbling down.  But I do know that Facebook is well stocked with mountaineering supplies, and they’ve made base camp just below the summit.  They’re just waiting for their opportunity to ascend.

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Is Your Firm’s Social Media Strategy Effective?

Social Media Strategy

Does your company have a social media presence? If your answer is no, stop reading this and read this article to understand why it’s important and how to begin building a social media profile. If you do have a presence, how well does your social media strategy deliver results?  How have you defined success?

Whimsical tweeting and posting company updates and news to your profiles consumes your time and generally doesn’t yield much benefit.  However, with a strategic approach to social media you can rise above the noise, find new prospects and influencers, engage them in meaningful conversation and one day call them customers.

Let’s start with what makes good conversation in social media, and on which networks. An effective social media strategy pinpoints where audiences are online and what they care about, so that you can join the discussion. The discussion is happening. You need to find it and then be part of it.

Now, let’s look at how other companies apply social media to their marketing efforts.

 

How Do High Growth Firms Use Social?

In a recent study, 500 CEOs, executives and marketers from professional services firms were asked to rate the effectiveness of social media as a part of their digital marketing strategy. The answers were compared between high growth and average growth firms in the figure below.

Effectiveness of Social Media

The results showed that the fastest growing companies found social media tools to be much more effective for marketing online than the average growth companies, and they were using social media more often. If you want to follow suit, take a similar approach.

 

A Breakdown of the Tools

Now that we know the benefits of social media, which social media tools are right for your social media strategy? In the same study, some of the most popular social media tools were ranked in order of effectiveness:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. YouTube

If these results seem surprising to you, let’s look at each social network and how it could benefit your firm. LinkedIn exists as a purely professional network. And while many people use it solely for networking, building a company profile and joining groups, discussions, and sharing content can have a major impact on your online marketing. Since people using LinkedIn are already thinking professionally, it is an effective place to market your services. Explore the many groups on LinkedIn – there are some for every industry.

Twitter comes in second place and is a great network to share content – both your own and external content – and to engage with your audience on a personal level. There are tools to help you find Twitter followers in your specialty (follow them, and most will follow you, too).  Sure, some will be competitors, but many are also buyers in need of solutions.

Facebook and YouTube round out the most effective social media tools, largely because while the numbers of users are vast, they have less of a focus than LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

What Do the Experts Say?

In our research, experts in online marketing and social media were asked to rank the effectiveness of these social media networks as well. The results show that companies are not taking full advantage of the tools available online.

What Experts Say

Not surprisingly, the experts rated LinkedIn and Twitter as the most effective, but they rated the networks’ effectiveness even higher than the high growth firms. There is even more to be leveraged from these networks than even some of the most successful marketers know.

The experts rated YouTube significantly more effective than high growth firms. Video is often an untapped, but effective component of online marketing. Taking a good look at how your firm is using video could produce great results.

Unexpectedly, the experts rated Facebook less effective than the high growth companies. Many are under the impression that Facebook provides more benefit for marketing online than it really does. While this is likely bad news for Facebook, it is important for firms to know so that they can focus their social efforts appropriately.

Social media isn’t just for personal use anymore. Your company’s target audiences are online and participating in social networking. And in order to drive growth and higher profitability, take a closer look at how your company is approaching social media to get the best results possible.

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The Easy Way to Master Facebook

Master Facebook

Don’t get me wrong. There’s an extremely complex and effective methodology behind utilizing Facebook as a true marketing and advertising tool that requires some specialized training, a strong sense of creativity, a willingness to experiment, and an unrelenting focus on keeping up with the latest and greatest from experts and Facebook itself.

Then again, there’s a simple way as well. As much as I would love to turn this into a lengthy blog post, I would only be adding fluff. It’s too easy.

Here are the steps:

  1. Post really amazing content on a regular basis
  2. Do NOT post anything that isn’t absolutely amazing just for the sake of getting a post up
  3. Support all of it with Facebook ads
  4. Reply to everything that people post in reply or on your wall

That’s it. Sorry to disappoint those who specialize in social media as a career (I’m one of them) but those are the steps required to make Facebook sing for your business. If you do those steps, you’ll be doing better than literally 99% of your competitors.

With that said, there’s a caveat. This will get you to the top. It won’t keep you there. The truth about Facebook marketing is spreading and more people are starting to get it. This is why there’s hope for people like me. The next 17 steps in the process are much more complicated and result in a stronger Facebook presence designed to drive business. Thankfully, these are the steps to make clients stay ahead of the 99% now as well as next year when 10%-20% start to “get it” with Facebook.

Today, the best way to do it is to hire a professional or to diligently perform the 4 easy steps above.

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Recording Blog Posts is a Way to Find a Different Audience

Mic

It’s not for everyone. Some people just don’t like to hear their voices played on audio or video. I know. I used to be one of them.

If you can get over that fear and if you want to get your YouTube channel some watches while helping to get your content seen and heard, it’s a quick and easy way to kill a couple of birds with a single stone. The concept is pretty simple. Write a blog post, then read it off while recording a video. Attach the video to the story and now you have an easy way for people to either read your blog post or watch it.

Perhaps more importantly, it takes the art of writing and allows you to get creative in the fastest growing medium. Remember, everything is going mobile. While it can be annoying trying to read a blog post on a smartphone, listening to it on YouTube is often much easier. If you get good at recording the audio from the posts and applying it to either a visual of yourself reading it, a slideshow, a scrolling transcript, or other images that are pertinent to the video itself, you can make for an alternative experience for your content.

Some people are readers. Others are listening. There’s even a few people that like to do both. I tend to listen to a video or podcast playing in the background while reading something else. Here’s an example:

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The Two Parallel Styles of Small Business Content Marketing

Mazda Keys

Content has been the big play for over a year now in the world of marketing. It’s the glue that holds social media marketing and search engine marketing together and it’s becoming so prevalent that the old ways (the ones everyone started using this year) are already starting to become obsolete.

Don’t get me wrong – the techniques themselves still work. The problem is that everyone is starting to get it. The competition level for content marketing at the small business level has gone from non-existent at the beginning of 2013 to hyper-competitive before the end of the year. It’s too easy, too important, and has too many people talking about it for most companies to miss.

Perhaps as bloggers, we did our jobs right. Now, we’re faced with a dilemma – taking it to the next level. Thankfully, the strategy is pretty much the same with an expansion into a two-style mode. By going with this format, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the competition that is starting to catch up to you.

 

Style 1: The Local Content

This is the easy part. For localized small businesses, it’s all about talking to to and about those in the local area in order to build buzz. The concept is this: post content that is enjoyable or useful to your potential customers and they will share it on social media as well as generate an occasional link or two.

It’s the style that everyone’s starting to get. Just in the automotive industry alone, we’re seeing multiple dealers in the same city making videos about how to change a Mazda key fob battery, writing articles about their first shipment of Chevy Corvettes, and bringing in local celebrities for interviews and discussions.

Just because so many are starting to do it doesn’t mean that you should stop. It means that you have to step up your game. You have to make your content better, get more people to share it, and post more often than your competitors. It means that you have to work harder than everyone else, but that’s one of the things that are necessary in order to stay ahead of the game.

 

Style 2: The Broader Content

The goal with all types of content is to become the authority on your topic. We have known for a while that localized content works, but it’s not able to stand alone anymore in most industries because of the competition level. To make it stand out ahead of the competitors, you need to hit the national arena.

This means that you can no longer just be the local authority. You have to get the type of content out there that can resonate with a broader audience. This is only possible if you’ve already mastered the local content style and you have a strong following for it.

Going broad is harder. It requires that the content have a more general appeal. It means that your local following will share it as well and that their friends and family from the rest of the country or world will see it and find value as well.

It could be reactions to national news about your industry. It could be universal help items that are not localized. It could be great videos, images, or infographics that anyone anywhere in the country can like.

It also requires a bit more professionalism than the localized content. An iPhone video might work for a quick walkaround of a new inventory item, but to get the national appeal, it has to be better made than that.

* * *

This is the type of thing that many people fear. Just when you thought you had localized content mastered, hearing that it won’t be good enough to keep the gap large between you and your competitors in 2014 can be disheartening. However, if you really think about it, every new challenge like this is an opportunity to shine above and beyond them.

Change is good as long as you’re on top of it.

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How to Take a Selfie

Selfie

There’s a certain art to the “selfie”. It has risen from a poor way to do self-photography to the accepted method. Not sure how that happened but I’m not the biggest fan. The rise of sites like Instagram have made them a part of our social media lives.

With that said, it’s important to know the right way to make it work. The image above – that’s not a good example. It’s not stereotypical, either. Most make sure that they look good (at least having their hair brushed) and in a position to where the background is appropriate. Nobody wants to have their selfie photobombed by something they didn’t want in there.

Here’s an infographic from izzigadgets that should give you all the information that you need to perfect the art of the selfie.

How to Take a Selfie Infographic

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Reputation Management is NOT About Getting Good Reviews

Change Things

There’s a misconception that has been permeating across many industries over the past couple of years. It’s the thought that “reputation management” is about getting positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+, and Merchant Circle. While that’s a portion of it in theory, the practice of it has turned into a huge monster that is ready to burst… possibly before the end of 2013.

It’s not the fault of the businesses nor is it really the fault of the reputation management firms. It comes down to the review sites themselves that have found themselves in the predicament of needing more reviews to gain relevance while also wanting those reviews to be legitimate. Some, such as Yelp and Google, are taking steps to eliminate the fake reviews, but even then there’s a challenge. It isn’t always easy to tell what’s real and what’s fake.

The bubble that’s going to burst surrounds two components of many reputation management services: automation and filtering. With automation, the same responses are made on dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of reviews. These are the businesses responding to people, but they’re canned and the review sites don’t like that. Google recently removed thousands of these automated replies spread across hundreds of Google+ pages.

The other aspect is much more nefarious. It is called filtering. In it, a company uses a 2-step process for soliciting reviews. In the first email, they ask the customer to take a quick survey about their experience. If the survey comes back positive, they then receive an email asking them to let the world know about their experience on the review sites, often with links to the appropriate ones.

If the first response comes back negative, the second email is much different. It is consoling. It is apologetic. It declares a need for something to be done about it and normally promises that the response is going straight to the top to be handled by the manager or the owner.

At no point in this second situation are the customers told to post a review. This friendly/unfriendly test before soliciting reviews is filtering. It’s frowned upon by most review sites and is a breach of terms of service in some. What’s worse is that if a major publication knew about it, they would certainly come down hard on the parent companies or the individual companies themselves for trying to manipulate their public reputation.

The right way to solicit reviews is through a transparent, single step process. Businesses that take pride in their service and boldly ask for reviews regardless of the perspective of the customer is the only way to get reviews the whitehat way.

That’s not where it ends, though. Getting more reviews is important, but handling the reviews – good and bad – in an appropriate manner is the real juice in reputation management. This isn’t just about getting a higher star-ranking. It’s about being gracious and humble to those that leave a good review and being helpful to those who leave a bad review.

The responses to bad reviews can be more powerful than a positive review. Nobody expects a business to be perfect. They make mistakes. When these mistakes are made, the willingness to listen to the challenges, try to offer solutions, and be sincerely sorry for the bad experience can go a long way towards helping a business improve their chances of getting more business.

In other words, negative reviews can be more helpful than positive ones in many circumstances.

The other component of reputation management that few companies explore is the search engine reputation component. Review sites are almost invisible if they’re not found on search. To see what people will be viewing, do four searches:

  • [Business Name]
  • [Business Name] [City]
  • [Business Name] Reviews
  • [Business Name] Complaints

The results on the first page of the search engine results pages will be what people are seeing. The things that appear on page two are threats or opportunities. The things that appear on page three or beyond are invisible.

The absolute most important part of reputation management is service itself. If you’re getting bad reviews, it’s not a random occurrence. It’s not “those damn internet folks” trying to ruin your business. It’s probably not your competitors or former employees being vindictive.

If you’re getting a lot of bad reviews, you might just want to improve the way you do business with your customers. As strange as it may sound, your reputation management issues may be justified. Fix those first. Everything else is just strategy and technique.

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The Biggest Problem with @Yelp – They Don’t Reply Even After Four Months

Fake Yelp Reviews

A few months ago I ate at a restaurant and wrote a review. It wasn’t a bad review – I believe I either gave the restaurant three or four stars out of five – but it wasn’t a triumphant, best-gyro-ever review, either.

A few days later I received an email from Yelp saying that the review had been removed “because it lacks a firsthand customer experience.” Now, considering I ate there, wrote about my first hand experience, and even posted a picture on yelp of the Indian statue at the front door, I’m not sure how first hand one needs to get.

That’s not a big deal, actually. When a company is that big, it’s understandable that mistakes will happen. In fact, I was pleased that they’re being diligent about making sure that the reviews are as authentic as possible. The problem was that there is nobody to talk to, no way to communicate, and no chance of correcting the mistake.

I emailed several times. I Tweeted at them several times. I searched the site for a way to correct such errors. Nothing.

One might think, “what’s the big deal?”

It’s just an online review, right? Well, yes and no. It’s important from the perspective that a voice of the public trying to express an opinion about a local business for their peers to see and use for guidance was removed and given zero chance of making things right. My review was not important. The fact that this can happen is scary.

The worst case scenario is that reviews become untrustworthy and they no longer bring the value that they promise to the users. Yelp is striving to fix that. The other end of the spectrum – the ability to correct improper filters – is a huge mess. I’ve seen clients find this to be challenging. I’ve had friends who have found this to be challenging.

It’s their site and they can do whatever they want with it. However, when legitimate reviews are tossed out and given no chance of being recovered, it’s no longer simply a mistake. It’s blatant censorship. Some might say that the word is too harsh for such a situation, but there’s no other way to put it. If there was a way to challenge the filter and prove that the review was real, then it would be nothing to worry about at all. It’s a countermeasure to falsified reviews and that’s definitely necessary. Unfortunately, the fact that they have no method to correct improper deletions IS censorship.

Until they figure out how to correct this by allowing users to contest their filtering, the service cannot be trusted. It is simply incapable of painting an accurate picture as long as this is a problem.

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Blog Titles that Work

Blog

There are two things that can make or break whether or not your blog post is going to be read – quality of the post and the title itself. Between the two, quality is more important in getting people to continue to read your posts, to share it, and to possibly even subscribe to your blog, but when it comes to visibility, the title is much more important.

The reason is simple. We get hooked into something or we don’t. With so many options available for us to consume media, there’s no way we could read everything that we want to read. Time is precious. How we spend it is often dictated by what catches our attention. For this reason, the title is so very important.

Here’s an infographic by Boot Camp Digital that breaks down ten winners in the title arena.

Blog Post Titles Infographic

 

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